The difference between translators and interpreters

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Posted on Tuesday, December 1st, 2015 3:57 am

A common misunderstanding is the interchangeable usage between ‘translation service’ and ‘interpretation’. ‘Translators’, which in industry we refer to as individuals specializing in translating written documents, is commonly mistaken as being ‘interpreters’, who are individuals specializing in translating oral speech. In this blog, we look at similarities and differences between the two professions.

Similarities:

Language conversion: The biggest similarity and also the reason for the confusion between the two professions is that they both involve converting languages from source to target languages. Though they perform these tasks in different ways, they are equally important professions.

Language skills: For both professions, it is vital that they not only have an excellent command of their respective languages, but they must also have exceptional knowledge in their field of expertise.

Differences:

Nature of work: Translators usually work from home and are paid per word translated whereas interpreters work on-site translating oral speech and are normally paid per day. Interpreters are usually working in client’s offices, on stage or other venues, so having an out-going or extroverted personality is helpful to them in quickly forging relationships.

Skill sets: One major difference is the different types of skill sets required to succeed. Being meticulous, precise and culturally aware are skills both professions require, however translators are usually more concerned on developing their writing skills to improve their work whereas interpreters are usually more concerned on skills which may help them interpret in front of large audiences, listening skills as well as concentration skills.

To summarize, the above are the most common points to consider when comparing translators and interpreters. For both professions, even the slightest mistake can cause disastrous outcomes so being accurate is of paramount importance. There are also differences; the two professions require different skills sets and personalities in order to give themselves the best chance in succeeding.

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